I came across an insightful piece last week written by blogger Matt Walsh (read his post here). In it, he makes the distinction between capitalism (which he is for, and I am too) and consumerism. Capitalism doesn’t automatically mean consumerism. Sadly, our culture doesn’t understand this distinction. Walsh writes about the intersection of consumerism and the Thanksgiving holiday:
That’s our entire economic system: buy things. Everybody buy. It doesn’t matter what you buy. Just buy. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have money. Just buy. Our entire civilization now rests on the assumption that, no matter what else happens, we will all continue to buy lots and lots of things. Buy, buy, buy. And then buy a little more. Don’t create, or produce, or discover- just buy. Never save, never invest, never cut back- just buy. Buy what you don’t need with money you don’t have. Buy when you’re happy. Buy when you’re sad. Buy when you’re hungry. Buy when you want to lose weight. Buy an iPhone. Six months have passed, here, buy another iPhone. Go online and buy things. Go to the mall and buy things. On your way, stop and buy some more things. Buy things for every occasion. Buy things to celebrate. Buy things to mourn. Buy things to keep up with the trends. Buy things while you’re buying things, and then buy a couple more things after you’re done buying things. If you want it- buy it. If you don’t want it- buy it. Don’t make it- buy it. Don’t grow it- buy it. Don’t cultivate it- buy it. If you are alive you must buy. Buy like you breathe, only more frequently.
How appropriate, then, that a holiday created by our ancestors as an occasion to give thanks for what they had, now morphs into a frenzied consumerist ritual where we descend upon shopping malls to accumulate more things we don’t need. Our great grandparents enjoyed a meal and praised the Lord for the food on the table and the friends and family gathered around it. We, having slightly altered the tradition, instead elect to bum-rush elderly women and trample over children to get our hands on cheap TVs.
What he says here is sad, but true. We have now expanded “Black Friday” to Thanksgiving day. Walsh continues:
For a while, Black Friday and Thanksgiving coexisted. We thanked God for His blessings on Thursday, and then jumped into the consumer mosh pit at Best Buy on Friday. But this Black Friday-Thanksgiving marriage was tenuous and rocky from the start. It was doomed to fail. Thanksgiving offers tradition, family and contentment; Black Friday offers smart phones at drastically reduced prices. In America, we all know who wins that battle. So Black Friday, like a black hole, violently expanded; it absorbed the light that surrounded it and sucked everything into its terrifying abyss, where all substance is torn to shreds and obliterated. Black Friday could not be contained to a mere 24 hours. It is Consumerism. It wants more. It always wants more. Nothing is sacred to it; nothing is valuable. So, now, Black Friday has eaten Thanksgiving alive. Thanksgiving let out a desperate cry as Black Friday devoured its soul, but we barely noticed. It’s hard to hear anything when you’re wrestling 4,000 other people for buy one get one free cargo shorts at Old Navy.
I think we should step back and really consider if shopping on Thanksgiving Day is what we should be doing. As Walsh notes in his post, if we are shopping on Thanksgiving then we are a part of the problem of consumerism. I know I always want to be part of the solution to that problem.
I might add here that I see the problem of consumerism in our culture in general and even in the church. Church, for more and more, is not about what I can give and how I can serve, but merely about what I can get from it. Getting people to volunteer is a pandemic problem in the church today. Let’s avoid the consumerist mentality- at Thanksgiving and at all times. Let’s live in wisdom and moderation seeking how we can give more than we take or get. That is an attitude that places us in line with the heart/mind of God and causes us to truly be thankful and dependent on Him.
Philippians 2:5-8- “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”